More on Prayer and Temperament

Last week I posted a brief review of the helpful book Prayer and Temperament by Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey. This week I walked our staff through some of my gleanings from the book, and they suggested I share these insights more broadly. So here goes.

The 16 Myers-Briggs types break into four major categories:

  • NT: The Rationals
  • NF: The Idealists
  • SJ: The Guardians
  • SP: The Artisans

Below are some characteristics of each type and some notes on how they will tend to experience God in prayer and in the existential aspects of spiritual life. But before we get there, let me set the stage by introducing Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina (“sacred reading”) is a historic, time-tested method of Scripture study and prayer. It forms the basis of liturgical prayer in all three major traditions of the historic Christian tradition: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. (If you fundamentalists are getting nervous, go read Martin Luther’s “Letter to My Barber” and you’ll see that this is exactly what he prescribes).

  • Lectio: slow, thoughtful reading of a text of Scripture
  • Meditatio: welcoming this word from God into our lives; chewing and ruminating on it
  • Oratio: responding to God in prayer
  • Contemplatio: Listening to the Holy Spirit and enjoying the presence of God


NT Characteristics

  • Logical, rational, intellectual
  • Thirst for truth
  • Long to understand, explain, master, excel
  • Straightforward and direct
  • Tend to be impersonal/insensitive
  • Appreciate excellence and seek to avoid mistakes
  • Demanding of self and others
  • Love planning; tend to be very future-oriented
  • Generally excel at whatever they do

NT Prayer:

  • NT’s are the most mystical and contemplative of all the types. They thrive on earnest, thoughtful pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
  • Authors Michael and Norrisey recommend that NT’s practice “Thomistic Prayer,” which is essentially discursive meditation: taking a biblical/theological truth and “walking around in it,” studying it from every angle and contemplating its facets and implications.
  • NT’s will especially thrive in the Meditatio step of Lectio Divina.


NF Characteristics

  • Creative
  • Optimistic
  • Verbal/outspoken
  • Great need for self-expression
  • Deep feelings; love affirmation, hate criticism
  • Excel at empathy, understanding, compassion
  • Natural “rescuers” of others
  • Want their outer life to be totally congruent with their inner self
  • Often dissatisfied with the present

NF Prayer

  • NF’s must experience personal relationship with God. They are always looking for deeper meaning, insight, significance. Journaling is often key to the prayer life of an NF: they tend to pray best “at the point of a pen.”
  • Michael and Norrisey recommend that NF’s practice “Augustinian Prayer,” or transposition: imagining the words of Scripture as if God is speaking them directly to me, right now, in my current situation.
  • NF’s will tend to thrive in the Oratio and Contemplatio steps of Lectio Divina.


SJ Characteristics

  • Deep sense of obligation
  • Want to feel useful – givers, not receivers
  • Very practical, common-sense
  • Strong work ethic
  • Value tradition, authority, structure
  • Conservative and stabilizing
  • Guardians of the values
  • Tendency toward pessimism

SJ Prayer

  • SJ’s prefer regimen and routine, so liturgy is especially helpful and meaningful to them. They enjoy a sense of connection with history and with the past. Prayer books and tools will be especially helpful to them.
  • Michael and Norrisey recommend “Ignatian Prayer” for SJ’s: becoming part of the biblical scene through imagination. For instance, as you read of the crucifixion of Jesus, you imagine what it would be like to stand there in the crowd; as you read of the Exodus, you imagine what it would be like to be one of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.
  • SJ’s will thrive most fully in the Lectio phase of Lectio Divina.


SP Characteristics

  • Impulsive
  • Dislike rules and structure
  • Action-driven, crisis-oriented
  • Flexible, adaptable
  • Live in the present, love the “new thing”
  • Cheerful, witty, charming
  • Good entertainers
  • Thrive on risk and challenge
  • Best at short-range projects; dislike long-term planning

SP Prayer

  • SP’s have the least need for long periods of formal prayer. They tend excel at “practicing the presence of God” – experiencing God’s presence in the events of every day. Because SP’s are very sensory, being out in nature is key to experiencing communion with God.
  • Michael and Norrisey recommend “Franciscan Prayer” for SP’s: spontaneous, free-flowing, active prayer that emphasizes tangible acts of service and devotion. Doing good deeds for others or giving gifts to others are prayerful, devotional activities for SP’s – more than all the other types, “their work is their prayer.”
  • SP’s will thrive most fully in the Oratio phase of Lectio Divina


Leave a Comment

  1. I love this idea. Contextualizing our relationship with God to who we are. It gives me more freedom to be ok with the expression that I have towards God and not compare myself to others with maybe a different grouping of characteristics. Thanks for sharing!

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